Baseball and Softball are nearly here. Jay opened the 2022 introductions with a summary of the Hokie Softball team. They start southern tier tournament play on the 11th. The baseball team takes the field, at home with no deep south tournaments on the schedule and a probably chilly February 18th start to what will hopefully be a “next step up” season. UNC Ashville is showing up for a three-game series to get everyone’s blood flowing.
That’s great news, but just who is going to be playing this year? Baseball is a bit frustrating at the collegiate level, not only has the transfer portal bitten some teams hard, the lure of the minor leagues and getting paid to play can really pull away the talent just as it is building.
Coach John Szefc and crew did take some hits with those types of losses to the roster last season, add to that the normal eligibility turnover and we are seeing some changes from the 2021 season. Szefc hasn’t been ignoring the portal, either. There were critical position losses that merited a good look at a few players to add to the 2022 effort. The Hokies picked up seven total transfers from around the country. Five of those players have been added to the struggling Hokie pitching staff.
So, let’s take a look at the position groups. The encouraging reality is that there will be quite a few returning players, given the nature of the year-to-year roster turnover in the sport.
The outfield roster is loaded with experienced talent, well as experienced as sophomores are, but several of the Hokie outfielders have been productive. The buzz leader is Gavin Cross - Baseball - Virginia Tech Athletics (hokiesports.com). Cross played for Team USA, and was selected to the first team All-ACC in 2021 as a Freshman. He’s getting serious scouting notice, so 2022 Draft: Gavin Cross, OF | 12/13/2021 | MLB.com which can be pretty problematic since poaching college prospects is a normal activity in the baseball draft system. Here’s hoping that his excellent grades keep him pushing for his degree instead of bolting for the minors, at least for a while.
Hokie 2022 Outfield
|9||Brennan Reback||Sr.^||L/L||OF||6' 0"||195|
|12||Conor Hartigan||Sr.*||R/R||OF||6' 2"||220|
|37||Jonah Seagears||Jr.^||R/R||OF||5' 11"||184|
|19||Gavin Cross||So.^||L/L||OF||6' 3"||210|
|29||Carson Jones||So.^||L/L||OF||6' 2"||190|
|31||Jack Hurley||So.^||L/R||OF||6' 0"||185|
(All returning players are marked with a “^” and all new transfers are marked with a “*”)
There is only a single new player added to the OF roster for the season. Conor Hartigan - Baseball - Virginia Tech Athletics (hokiesports.com) is a Senior who has transferred from James Madison for the 2022 season. He had an impressive showing in the Colonial Athletic Association. He is going to be a solid addition to an experienced outfield.
The only curiosity is that there are no Freshmen on the roster in the outfield. That may or may not be a problematic situation for 2023 and beyond. We’ll see how the team handles that when the time comes.
Eight players are returning to the Hokie Infield this season. Of those returning players, Hokie Baseball fans will recognize some solid players who are helping to turn the program around. Tanner Schobel - Baseball - Virginia Tech Athletics (hokiesports.com), Cade Swisher - Baseball - Virginia Tech Athletics (hokiesports.com), and Lucas Donlon - Baseball - Virginia Tech Athletics (hokiesports.com) all played significant time over the course of the 2021 season. Nick Holesa - Baseball - Virginia Tech Athletics (hokiesports.com) is back from a medical redshirt and is ready to pick up from his Freshman effort. Nick Biddison - Baseball - Virginia Tech Athletics (hokiesports.com) is set up to be the Utility Infielder and Designated Hitter for the season. Tech is adding a new glove and stick from the Transfer Portal, Eduardo Malinowski - Baseball - Virginia Tech Athletics (hokiesports.com) joins the team from Penn, as a graduate student. He’s so new we have to go to Penn for the information. (Eduardo Malinowski - Baseball - University of Pennsylvania Athletics (pennathletics.com)) He looks like a great pickup for the Hokies.
Hokie 2022 Infield
|23||Eduardo Malinowski||Gr.*||R/R||IF||6' 0"||195|
|33||Nick Holesa||R-Jr.^||L/R||1B||6' 2"||205|
|24||Nick Biddison||Jr.^||R/R||UT||5' 10"||190|
|8||Tanner Schobel||So.^||R/R||IF||5' 10"||170|
|11||Cade Swisher||So.^||L/R||IF||5' 11"||190|
|32||Lucas Donlon||So.^||R/R||IF||6' 0"||205|
|2||Sam Tackett||R-Fr.^||R/R||IF||6' 0"||195|
|3||Christian Martin||Fr.||L/R||IF||5' 10"||170|
|4||Carson DeMartini||Fr.||L/R||IF||6' 0"||185|
|18||Warren Holzemer||Fr.||R/R||IF||5' 10"||180|
|10||Tyler Dean||Fr.||R/R||IF/P||6' 3"||195|
|5||Gehrig Ebel||So.^||R/R||C||6' 0"||190|
|17||Cade Hunter||So.^||L/R||C||6' 2"||200|
|25||Dylan Hatfield||Fr.||R/R||C||5' 11"||185|
(All returning players are marked with a “^” and all new transfers are marked with a “*”)
There are several new faces that I am sure will be seen on the diamond. One returning face that will be greatly appreciated is Catcher Cade Hunter - Baseball - Virginia Tech Athletics (hokiesports.com) who we are seriously lucky to have back. He was selected by the Colorado Rockies organization for the Minors in 2019, so Hunter coming back to the program is a seriously good event. He’s been excellent behind the dish, and as the lead Catcher for the season looks to improve on his record.
Arguably the most difficult part of fielding a college baseball team is getting a few players on the mound who can manage to control two or three pitches. The magic of pitching is velocity, placement, and variety. Velocity doesn’t have to be high, btw. A change up looks like a fastball but falls off the table under the swing of the batter, it might be 15 miles per hour slower than the pitcher’s best fastball. Placement (or Control for the old guys) is so critical that it often is the most important of the attributes. Batters have tendencies, and if they can murder a fastball – anywhere, but can’t hit a curve- you certainly are ill advised to cough up a 2-seamer. The final component is variety. The great pitchers possessed at least if not four different pitches to confound batters. The reality remains that mixing and matching the three elements leads to great pitching, or disaster.
Collegiate pitchers rarely possess more than two or three pitches coming out of high school, and maybe one of those is reasonably consistent. To say that Virginia Tech has had problems getting someone on the mound, below the top two pitchers, who can pull off 3 good pitches for more than a few innings has been a struggle.
The Hokies lost some really good starting pitching in the offseason. Chris Gerard and Shane Connolly were drafted into the minors. Those two were often the starting pitchers in the rotation for the 2021 season. Most of the returning players had starting chances, but few could hold the mound for more than a few innings. To address some of that, Coach Szefc has reached into the transfer portal for four experienced pitchers (Sean Fisher, Jordan Geber, Pat Petteruti, and Kiernan Higgins). Whether or not they end up being starters in the rotation will be a matter of feeling out how things work past the early five inning limits on most young arms. All of them are graduate transfers so have some long-term collegiate experience behind them.
Hokie 2022 Pitching Staff
|7||Sean Fisher||Gr.*||R/L||P||6' 0"||215|
|30||Jordan Geber||Gr.*||R/R||P||6' 3"||205|
|42||Pat Petteruti||Gr.*||L/L||P||6' 0"||185|
|49||Kiernan Higgins||Gr.*||R/R||P||6' 4"||235|
|22||Ryan Okuda||Sr.^||L/L||P||6' 1"||170|
|35||Ryan Metz||Sr.^||R/R||P||6' 1"||190|
|38||Ryan Kennedy||Sr.*||L/L||P||6' 2"||210|
|47||Jonah Hurney||Jr.*||L/L||P||5' 8"||180|
|51||Graham Firoved||Jr.^||R/R||P||6' 1"||185|
|16||Matthew Siverling||So.^||L/L||P||6' 4"||190|
|20||Grant Umberger||So.^||R/L||P||6' 4"||225|
|27||Noah Johnson||So.^||L/L||P||6' 5"||195|
|39||Peter Sakellaris||So.^||R/R||P||6' 0"||185|
|40||Henry Weycker||So.^||L/L||P||5' 11"||205|
|44||Jackson Ritchey||So.^||R/R||P||6' 5"||190|
|45||Christian Worley||So.^||R/R||P||6' 1"||170|
|46||Griffin Green||So.^||R/R||P||6' 3"||205|
|21||Kyle McKernan||R-Fr.^||R/R||P||6' 5"||225|
|48||Brady Kirtner||R-Fr.^||R/R||P||5' 11"||170|
|15||Drue Hackenberg||Fr.||R/R||P||6' 2"||220|
|26||Andrew Dusablon||Fr.||R/R||P||6' 3"||175|
|41||T.R. Williams, Jr.||Fr.||L/L||P||6' 2"||200|
|43||Marcus Dux||Fr.||L/L||P||6' 1"||185|
|50||Luke Jackman||Fr.||R/R||P||6' 0"||195|
(Again, all returning players are marked with a “^” and all new transfers are marked with a “*”)
So, last season the Hokies broke the .500 barrier, remembering that baseball is one of those par sports, but faded at the end of the season. They seemed to run out of gas and pitching just as they looked like they’d finish well above the average mark. Hopefully, the returning players remember the pain of the fade and seek to correct the problem. This program is building in some quality, but that’ really hard to keep when the lure of money and pro-ball with no school attached waves it’s hand in front of a baseball player’s face. This year’s Hokies are capable of winning some games. Let’s see if they can pull it off.